What types of files can attackers corrupt?An attacker may be able to insert malicious code into any file, including common file types that you would normally consider safe. These files may include documents created with word processing software, spreadsheets, or image files. After corrupting the file, an attacker may distribute it through email or post it to a web site. Depending on the type of malicious code, you may infect your computer by just opening the file.
When corrupting files, attackers often take advantage of vulnerabilities that they discover in the software that is used to create or open the file. These vulnerabilities may allow attackers to insert and execute malicious scripts or code, and they are not always detected. Sometimes the vulnerability involves a combination of certain files (such as a particular piece of software running on a particular operating system) or only affects certain versions of a software program.
What problems can malicious files cause?There are various types of malicious code, including viruses, worms, and Trojan horses. However, the range of consequences varies even within these categories. The malicious code may be designed to perform one or more functions, including
- interfering with your computer's ability to process information by consuming memory or bandwidth (causing your computer to become significantly slower or even "freeze")
- installing, altering, or deleting files on your computer
- giving the attacker access to your computer
- using your computer to attack other computers.